Gubernatorial candidate Delegate Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights) agrees that schools need to be reopened immediately. But he says that’s not enough — policymakers need to address learning losses. Districts like Fairfax County have reported spikes in failing grades. Parents and medical studies have expressed concern over the long-term harms caused by a year of virtual learning. Cox is calling for tutoring programs to help students recover academically, and he says he is willing to be one of those tutors.
“Study after study has shown that the best way to help our students who’ve suffered from learning loss over the past year is through small group and individual tutoring. We need to mobilize past, present and future teachers to help our students get back on track — and I’m willing to jump in and help,” Cox said in a statement. “As a former educator and coach, I know what a difference individualized attention can make for students who are struggling.”
In February, Cox announced his ten-point Attacking Learning Loss (ALL) plan, with features like a Reimbursement for Education Access Decisions (READ) fund to reimburse parents for supplemental learning costs, and state-funded personalized tutoring opportunities. In January, he introduced a bill to create the READ fund, but it died in committee in January.
Other policy makers have offered learning loss-remediation suggestions. Governor Ralph Northam has recommended that schools consider additional learning opportunities including summer school, remediation programs, or extended school days. In February, Virginia Education Association President James Fedderman said that Northam was rushing the school reopening process, but he also called for using summer school to address learning losses. Senators Chap Petersen (D-Fairfax) and Siobhan Dunnavant (R-Henrico) proposed the creation of an Education Reserve Corps, staffed by volunteers with teaching experience or advanced qualifications, to help address staffing shortages.
So far, broad state-wide proposals haven’t gained much traction. The Virginia Department of Education has released guidelines for districts to follow as they help students recover from virtual learning, but the guidelines are more focused on assessment and content than on providing extra learning opportunities.
Cox is one of several GOP gubernatorial candidates trying to establish his position as a leader on school reopening. Senator Amanda Chase (R-Chesterfield) also introduced legislation that failed meant to help parents meet costs associated with virtual learning, Pete Snyder is crossing the state in his Open Our Schools tour, and Glenn Youngkin has said he will tie education funding to schools being open
Cox’s staff told The Virginia Star that his ten-point ALL initiative plan is the most extensive plan they’ve seen.
Fairfax County Supervisor Pat Herrity, who has endorsed Cox, said in a statement, “Many of us in Northern Virginia are fed up with how our school boards and administrators have failed our kids this past year by not providing in person learning options. Kirk spent thirty years teaching Virginia’s kids, and we’re lucky he has a responsible plan to make up for the lost time. Kirk walks the walk every day, and I know his determination to do right by Virginians is what will make him the best governor our state has seen in years.”
“I’ve been saying since July that students should be back in the classroom, but after the year they’ve experienced it’s going to require much more than being inside a building to repair the learning loss they’ve been dealt,” Cox said. “To my fellow retired teachers: please consider joining me in the fight to attack the learning loss Virginia’s kids have experienced.”
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